Richmond bank robbery trio guilty of cop’s murder

2016-05-05 10:30

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Pietermaritzburg - Three men have been found guilty of 23 charges including murder of a police officer arising from a foiled heist at Capitec Bank in Richmond in January 2014.

Judge Rishi Seegobin described the trio as “lying, conniving and devious witnesses” compared with the “outstanding quality of evidence presented by the state”.

The three — Thulani Doncabe of Umlazi, Siboniso Mpanza of KwaMashu and Sandile Shongwe of Umlazi — will return to the Pietermaritzburg high court tomorrow for the sentencing process to start.

Immediately after his conviction, Shongwe fired his latest advocate, resulting in the judge warning him that if he does not hire a new lawyer before tomorrow, he will have to represent himself.

Shongwe, who was on bail until Tuesday, has bumped heads with the judge on various occasions during the trial after firing attorneys and being accused of delaying tactics.

After he was found guilty yesterday, Shongwe’s first reaction was to fire his most recent advocate, Mvu Mdune, who was granted leave by the court to withdraw from the case.

Shongwe told Seegobin he has no access to a phone but said he would try to hire a new attorney.

He said he was unsure if he could represent himself as he is “not aware of the rules of court”.

Seegobin found in his judgment that each of the three was “integrally and intimately involved” in the planning and execution of the robbery at Capitec Bank in Richmond on January 27, 2014.

He said he was satisfied they were part of a joint criminal enterprise in which they conspired to carry out the robbery. Cellphone evidence established conclusively that the holders of various cellphone numbers, including the three accused, had travelled from Durban to Richmond on the afternoon of the robbery.

“The escape path taken by the gang after the failed heist was from the Capi­tec scene, to the Quarry scene and then to the Patheni scene. These three scenes are inextricably linked to each other as evidenced by the presence of individual gang members at these scenes, the communications between them and the number of exhibits recovered from these scenes, which inextricably link these individuals to the crime scene and to each other,” said the judge.

He said apart from direct evidence against Doncabe and Mpanza, the circumstantial evidence against all three created a “net so tight around them that it leaves no room for escape”.

The charges they were convicted of include theft of motor vehicles, robbery with aggravating circumstances, murder and attempted murder.

The attempted robbery at Capitec Bank was foiled when the stolen cash box imploded and all the money was stained with ink.

The robbers, however, shot dead security guard Sicelo Phungula and took his firearm. Civilians outside the bank were wounded when they were caught in a gun battle.

One policeman, Thamsanqa Zondi, was also shot dead and his colleague, Sbonelo Mpandla, was critically injured whilst in pursuit of the robbers on the outskirts of Richmond.

Three of the gang members — Andile Hlongwane, Siphithemba Mtshali (also known as Bhokobokho) and Senzo Mtolo, also died in gun battles with police.

Doncabe and Mpanza were arrested by members of the SAPS dog unit while hiding in sugar cane fields in Patheni after the incident.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  crime  |  court  |  robbery

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